Jesus responds, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” The local priest is the one who certifies that a formerly sick person is now well and no longer a threat to the purity of the community.
There is a big problem with Jesus’ command, however: Theses ten still have the disease, so how can they go to the priest? Yet, to their credit, in spite of the fact that the lesions are still on their skin, they trust Jesus enough to do what he says. This is no small thing, so let’s ponder this a moment: They have a clear choice: they can trust their senses, which clearly tell them they are still sick or they can trust Jesus who is telling them they are well, or at least on their way to being well.
What would we do? As I said a couple of weeks ago, our default setting for establishing what is real, what is reality, is the evidence of our 5 senses: If my skin looks bad, smells bad, and feels bad, then I am going to assume I am still sick. “Walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”
But the ten lepers have internalized the news of Jesus’ powerful healing ministry. They believe he loves outcast people and that he is connected to God and therefore, they are willing to override the judgment of their senses and go find a priest.
All ten demonstrate this faith, this trust, in the power and authority of Jesus. None of them think to point out to him that they still have the lesions.
Jesus says, go, and they go.
I want to suggest these ten have something to teach us about faith.
Fundamentally, faith is not a belief in the articles of the creed, but the willingness to trust Jesus: trust his worldview, his vision, and his word.
Jesus’ worldview is that God’s Realm is now active in life; his vision is that God’s Love for God’s children heals diseases of body, mind, and soul; and his word is his call to each person to trust and obey him.
If the lepers ignore Jesus and just stand there staring at their wounds, waiting for proof before obeying, it’s likely nothing happens to their skin. Likewise, if the paralyzed man just sits on his mat when Jesus tells him to take up his mat and walk, he’d might still be a paralyzed.
So, the ten who obey, in spite of what their senses tell them, are a gospel lesson themselves. It is appropriate for us not only to admire their faith, and but also ask how we might deepen our own faith.
One proven way to deepen faith is to contemplate the sayings of Jesus about the power, presence, and performance of the Realm of God. For example, we can meditate on sayings of Jesus, like, “the kingdom of God is among you and within you”, or “fear not little flock it is my father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”; or, “Ask, and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you”; or “seek first the kingdom of God and all these good things will be given to you”.
To meditate regularly on the Word of Jesus, who is the Word of God, opens our being to experience the Goodness and Life of God for us.
Of course, we are free to discount these sayings as pious humbug and keep believing that we must forever be a victim, anxiously waiting for the next bad disease or accident to happen to us.
The existential question is this: who will be the Master of my life: Jesus or the world? How can I learn to experience the faith of the lepers who call Jesus, “Master”?
I read this quote recently: “Faith isn’t a leap into the darkness but a step into the light.” How do we practice stepping into the light, because if we’re not moving toward the light, we’re moving toward the darkness?
Without question, when I ignore the presence of Jesus and his still small voice of direction, then my anxiety leads me toward darkness: If the world tells me to act afraid; if the world tells me to run from the sick and the stranger, that’s what I’ll do. If my mind tells me disease is stronger than the power of God, I will be at the mercy of mortal mind with every disease I see talked about on TV and Facebook.
As a young priest I would imagine I was catching every disease of every person I visited in the hospital. [Same thing happens to first year medical students, I’m told.]
My defense, then, was to appeal to reason and say things like, “Oh that’s not likely”, and “I better use plenty of hand sanitizer.” This strategy has some effectiveness against anxiety and germs.
But there is something more we can do: tell yourself “I am a beloved child of God, filled with the Light, Love, and Life of Christ.”
Tell yourself what Paul tells himself: “I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me and the life I live in the body I live within the faithfulness of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Say this when you notice your fear and see what happens.
I mean that literally: replace your voices of anxiety and fear with a faith statement of who you are in Christ, for that is your true self. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get sick, but it does mean your life will be set free from fear and you will be more available to serve and help others who are in need.
So, all ten lepers have a lot to teach us about faith.
But there’s more: One of the ten, a Samaritan, a social outcast and a religious heretic, while walking to the priest, notices his skin clear up and his pain vanish. Then, he experiences an infusion of deep gratitude to God and to Jesus, and so before he gets to the priest, he praises God, returns to Jesus, and falls at his feet in thanksgiving and worship.
Then Jesus says, “Get up and go on your way, your faith has made you whole.”
I prefer other translations which are truer to the original Greek, which read: Get up and go on your way, “your faith has saved you.”
He is not only free of the skin disease, NOW he awakens to find himself in the Realm of God, which is salvation. The Realm of God is not only with Jesus, but also with him!
“Get up and go on your way; your faith has saved you!”
When he hears that command, I have no doubt he jumps up and believes salvation is his in that moment.
Now he is set free to live not for himself but for God, as a living, breathing witness to the love, healing, and salvation found through faith in Jesus Christ.
So pay attention as you practice your faith this week and come back next week and tell us what happened.